Discovering her own mental toughness proved vital for basketball player Chelsey Shumpert after recovering from a knee injury that threatened to hamper her career, writes Nicola Kenton.
The Nottingham Wildcats player experienced the third knee injury of her career last summer when she had meniscus and lateral damage.
But the 25-year-old saw it as an opportunity to improve herself and get ready for the 2020-21 season of the Women’s British Basketball League.
“That was my third time getting hurt with the same kind of injury and I knew what it took to get back," Shumpert said. “I knew that mentally it took more to get back than just your physical things.
“I didn't really understand why at every level, I got hurt, but it just makes sense to me now, why I am the player that I am and how tough that it made me be.
“It’s been tough this season, but it's really brought out more of who I am and my passion for the game. It shows me a lot going forward and for my future as well.
“That’s why I worked so hard last summer, and it’s paid off. Going forward it’s all about staying well and I’m going to continue to perform the best way that I can.”
Shumpert comes from a family of sporting prowess with her siblings and cousins playing basketball, baseball and American football.
The competitive nature of her upbringing was always going to lead to a sporting career and after her injury, last summer, the former University of Tennessee at Chattanooga student reached out to a professional athlete closer to home.
Mookie Betts, a two-time World Series champion and current right fielder for the Los Angeles Dodgers, is Shumpert’s cousin and offered her some advice.
“Due to COVID, Mookie was home more and he helped me realise the bigger picture of things,” she explained.
“He helped me with my body, to look at things differently, with my sleep schedule and what I’m eating, my drive and the toughness inside of me.
“Every morning, he said you need to get up earlier so you have a chance to do what you need to do throughout the day.
“He changed my eating habits, I’m nearly vegan now and it’s just been the world of difference on little things that he helped me build and the habits I have now.
“He makes sure that I’m staying on the right page and I’m reaching my full potential because he wants you to go as far as you possibly can.
“We look after him and he looks after us. When you get to be in someone’s presence and be part of someone's life who is so big in this world and so special.
"All you have to do is try and mirror them and look up to them and be the best that you can be."
Shumpert arrived on British shores and joined the Wildcats for the 2018-19 season where she went on to be the leading scorer in the league for that campaign.
With a disrupted second season in the WBBL due to the Covid-19 pandemic and her knee injury, the guard is hoping her team continue to improve this campaign.
Shumpert added: “We’d love to win the championship; we want to do that as a group, and I know I would really want to do that as an individual because that’s what we aim and work for.
“We want to reach the highest potential that we can and if it doesn't work out in that way with the championship, then we all are people and we all grew in this moment and we grew this year.
“It wasn't certain that we were going to get to play because not everybody gets to right now.
“With that, I want to work hard and I want to try to compete for some hardware, and with good memories for the rest of my life.”